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12 Oct 2004 17:16
Cameroon’s main opposition parties called on Tuesday for the Central African country’s presidential election—which veteran leader Paul Biya has been widely tipped to win—to be annulled, saying it was marred by rampant fraud.
“The Social Democratic Front will ask the Constitutional Court to annul this election ... which was very badly organised and resulted in massive fraud,” secretary general Michel Tazoacha Asongany of the Anglophone party said.
The presidential candidate of a separate coalition of opposition parties, Adamou Ndam Njoya, called the vote “a masquerade, with overt fraud throughout the country”.
“We are in the process of gathering information to bring this affair before the courts, in the hope that the judiciary will do its job,” Ndam Njoya said.
Territorial Administration Minister Marafa Hamidou Yaya said earlier on Tuesday that partial results showed John Fru Ndi, the Social Democratic Front (SDF) contender in the presidential race, to be in the lead in the North West province, with Biya leading in the other nine provinces.
Ndam Njoya was only able to “confirm his presence” in his home region of Noun, in the west of the country, Hamidou Yaya said, while insisting that he was basing his statements on “partial figures” and that “the Constitutional Court is the only body authorised to give the final figures”.
“There were numerous irregularities both before the election and on voting day,” the SDF’s Asongany insisted.
“In some polling stations, our members noted that at around 4pm Monday, members of the RDPC [Biya’s Democratic Rally of the Cameroonian People] were given voter cards that had not been used, and they voted,” he said.
Opposition coalition candidate Ndam Njoya said that voters were ferried into polling stations in the town of Garoua in the north, while “elsewhere, real voters were prevented from casting their ballots and observers from the UDC [his Cameroon Democratic Union party] were barred”.
“Biya will be elected fraudulently,” he charged.
Only 4,6-million of Cameroon’s 16-million people were registered to vote, with many saying they saw no point in casting their ballot because Biya was bound to win.
The outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion, the disillusioned voters said, partly because of disarray in the opposition, which failed to mount a united challenge to Biya, and partly because backers of Biya—who has been in power since 1982—would “cheat if need be” to ensure he won.
During the voting on Monday, election officials did their utmost to persuade voters that the vote would be transparent and fair.
Outside many of the polling stations, lists of candidates were posted for all to see, while inside, sealed and transparent urns awaited ballot papers—a first in the country’s election history.
Officials said more than 4 500 election observers—192 from abroad, sent by the Commonwealth, the International Francophone Organisation and foreign embassies, with the remainder from Cameroon—were deployed around the country, which is slightly larger than the western American state of California.
But various irregularities were reported to news agency AFP during the day.
In some polling stations, representatives of the different political parties were not present.
Some voters had not received their voting cards; others were not listed as registered to vote.
Biya (71) campaigned on a ticket of stability and continuity, while his opponents focused their campaigns on the issues of mismanagement, corruption and the economic crisis that they said have marked more than two decades under Biya.—Sapa-AFP
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